North Captiva – Vacation with the Manatees!

Manatee of the shore of North Captiva Island

Manatee of the shore of North Captiva Island

It is typical during the summer months to see manatee in the water surrounding North Captiva.  Typically I have seen them in the canal near the runway.  I have gathered some information about The manatee for you.

Belonging to the Sirenia order of mammalians, manatees are the common name for a large, gray or black air-breathing water mammal.  Sometimes called a “sea cow,” the manatee looks somewhat like a hippopotamus.  Adult manatees have large bodies averaging ten feet in length and weighing between 440 and 1300 pounds.  Manatees have a small head with a straight snout having a bristly moustache on the upper lip.  Paddle-like forelimbs are used to move through the water.

Key Lime Time Vacation Rental, North Captiva

"Key Lime Time" Vacation Rental, North Captiva

Manatees live in fresh, brackish, or salt water and roam with small herds somewhat like a family.  Six to eight hours a day is spent grazing upon seaweed and other marine plants.  Their slow metabolism reduces the energy requirements, thus they move slowly through the water.  Because of their size, manatees have few natural enemies.

While you are on your vacation in North Captiva, there are many water activities to enjoy including swimming, snorkeling, jet skiing, fishing, taking boat tours and diving, just to name a few.  You may even get to see a manatee!

Top 5 Most Romantic Beaches in the World

It’s hard to say what, exactly, makes a vacation HOT.  It’s more than the just weather, as Heidi Klum and hubby Seal could tell you – he infamously popped the question in a snow cave atop a glacier – but you can bet their engagement night was anything but frosty.  And while canopy beds, private hot tubs and candles can’t hurt, they can’t do all the work either.

We’ve gathered the top 5 most romantic beach destinations in the world as a starting point for your next X-rated escape.  There’s everything from a private island to a sizzling Latin locale – so pack your suit and anything else you may need…that is, if you even plan on emerging from your hotel room – yeah, we know your type…

Hayman Island, Australia – There must be a heap of  too-hot-for-TV Gilligan’s Island clips on someone’s cutting room floor.  I mean, after being stranded on that island for so long, wouldn’t the Professor ever get the urge to play doctor with Mary Ann?  Surely Ginger got into character and role played with Gilligan at least once?  If you’ve ever had the urge to reenact your very own “stranded on a deserted island” fantasy, look no further than Hayman Island (and not to worry – even though it’s far less populated than most places, it still isn’t completely deserted). Part of the world wonder that is Aussie’s Great Barrier Reef, Hayman Island is paradise found – an Eden that unabashedly flaunts its beauty that will have you asking your Lovey, “Who’s your Skipper?”  This sultry tropical setting has sprawling pure silica-white-crystal beaches and is where wildlife flourishes – it’s common to see everything from cockatoos and swans to bats and butterflies. At night, the stars seem to light the ink-black sky like perpetually frozen fireworks, so go ahead…get your Gilligan on.  Where to stay? Hayman Island Resort

Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica – Do you like your romance on the wild side?  Go au-natural at this raw eco-tourism haven…it’s hot and sticky most of the year, and Corcovado has a masterful balance of dense rain forests that open up onto stunningly beautiful beaches.  You and your sweetheart can experience the park’s virgin beauty with its green-sand beaches, wild mix of animals, and lantern-lit tent camps – the perfect location for you to reenact that unadulterated “In the jungle…” moment a la Ace Ventura…except at Corcovado there’s not a noisy headboard to give you away!  Afterward, you’ll want to cool down with some tropical cocktails, frolic in the warm surf, or strip down and rinse off in a fresh-water stream as it spills out from the jungle.  It may be taxing to get there, but just think of it as foreplay.  A-weema-weh A-weema-weh A-weema-weh… Where to stay? Corcovado Tent Camp

Shell Beach, California – Why should places like Paris, Ipanema and Santorini have all the fun?  You don’t have to travel out of the country to fall in love again – rekindle the passion amidst a wine-soaked love-fest on California’s picturesque Central Coast.  Shell Beach (and its neighbor Silver Shoals) feature the region’s famous dramatic rocky coastline.  If you can take your eyes off each other, enjoy panoramic views of the Pacific, Point Conception and Avila Bay from the bluffs or walk down the cliff trail to access the secluded beach, where you can swim, surf, or sunbathe.  Afterwards, take your sun-kissed bods to one of  the areas infamous vineyards.  There are plenty of romantic tasting rooms scattered throughout the rolling hills of San Luis Obispo county, so pick up a bottle of wine and perhaps some edible chocolate body paint and head back to your hotel to see where the night takes you!  Where to stay? Dolphin Bay Resort

Flamenco Beach, Puerto Rico – Just like Dancing with the Stars’ Gilles Marini could make your heart skip a beat without missing a beat, this steamy setting will leave you and your partner feeling hot and bothered.  You two are sure to feel the energy of the Latin culture at this secluded sandy beach that was named after the hot and sensual dance.  Framed by lush, green hills, the 1.5 mile wide horse-shoe shaped bay offers a wide, pink-tinted sandy beach and aqua blue, translucent and calm waters that almost resembles a swimming pool – perfect for snorkeling.  As daylight fades and temperatures cools a bit, the regions magical ocean bioluminescence are revealed.  This natural wonder, paired with the brightness of the starry night sky make Flamenco Beach about as romantic as you can get and will have you feeling HOT HOT HOT!  Where to stay? Bahia Marina Condo Hotel

Happy Bay, St. Martin – Two words – clothing optional.  After passing the last bar at Friar’s Bay, a short walk down a dirt path leads you to the sweeping views of Happy Bay beach. Fairly undiscovered, there isn’t much at this beach to interrupt your afternoon or to distract you from each other – no crowds, noisy restaurants, or traffic sounds. Don’t forget to pack your suntan oil – exchange sensual massages and you and your love can melt away on Happy Bay’s powdery white beach.  And if things get too steamy, there are plenty of palm trees lining the beach for shade or, uh-hem, added privacy.  Afterwards, stroll the wide beach and take in the vibrant, breathtaking vista.  If you’re up for more exercise, dip into the calm waters to enjoy some of the best snorkeling St. Martin has to offer.  Go ahead – leave your inhibitions and your tan lines behind.  Where to stay? Happy Bay Villa

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (23 of 40)

boatin through the delta

boatin through the delta

delta blues…
“woke up one morning, do do do sat right up in bed, do do do pour myself some whiskey, do do do i look over and kiss my baby still asleep in bed, and then i cried ive got the delta blues,  the delta blues baby  oooh ive got the delta blues.

we’re traveling to the mekong delta to a home stay on a fruit orchard. locals have been starting an ecotourism on the islands of the delta  where you arrive by boat to rustic bungalows on their property. the average costs are around 7 to 10 dollars a night and the dinners are usually a set menu.

a 400 lb catfish was caught here last year (biggest ever!)

a 400 lb catfish was caught here last year (biggest ever!)

in the delta the local specialty is the elephant ear fish. first they cook the fish on the grill which they fuel with the husk of the rice, giving the fish a flakey crust. then they stand the fish up in between some wooden dowels so you can see the fish (i couldn’t see an elephant ear). next they bring you an assortment of fresh greens and herbs with a plate of rice noodles and rice papers. you place the greens first, next some noodles and top it of with the flakey fish. roll it up and savor the fresh creation.

we chose a home stay on a fruit orchard which proved to be difficult to reach on our own. we tried to do this without a tour company so we could move on our own schedule. we first booked a 1 day tour of the mekong to reach one of the islands (this was recommended to us so we could see a few diffrent things and also advance further along)  we were planning to get off the tour half way through and catch a ferrry to another island. the remainder of the group would return to saigon.

taking a rest

taking a rest

on the tour we first visited a local coconut candy shop where they make a delicious coconut taffy. then we took the boat to a bee farm where the locals capture the queen bee to produce honey. another attraction was the pythons which you can hold and take your picture with. if you wish, you can stay here at their home stay – we thought it might not be such a good idea to sleep at a home stay with with snakes and bees.

so here is where we decided to travel by the seat of our pants.

picture stacy and i with our packs (that weigh around 60 pounds each). our boat guide tells us it’s around ten km to the boat ferry, so we catch a local horse and buggy taxi to the dock (turns out the 10 km was only about 1 km).  we reach the ferry only to find out it was the wrong one. our ride cost us 6 dollars – looks like the driver will be eating steak and lobster tonight.

mekong canals

mekong canals

so then we had to hire motorbikes to take us to the bus stop, which scared the shit out of stacy. with the heavy packs, we were on the scooter with some random guy, zooming along a large bridge that went up and down like a roller coaster – we held on for dear life. were dropped off on the side of the road and greeted by the local vender who offered us a chair and some shade. at this point no one spoke any english so we just smiled and let the trip unfold.

soon after, the shop vender yells out at a mini van passing by to negotiate our bus ticket. seconds later were stuffed into the minivan. one thing about bus travel is that, when we get on, they make the locals get out of their seats so we can have the seat. we feel a little weird, but since we’re paying more than everyone else its ok. the driver gives the local vender a little kick and away we go.

now the stares begin…everyone usually turns to you smiles and laughs and talks in vietemese. our minivan cargo consists of 12 people, 1 motorbike, lots of boxes, and us. eventually one of the girls started a conversation of broken english to get our story. come to find out she wants stacy to find another boyfriend and she wants me (understandable –  i’m pretty damn good looking).

river house

river house

i have to decline but she still continues to share her fruit and coffee with us. 5 hours later were dropped off at the bus station (the wrong one again). here we have to hire another motorbike to the car ferry. we get on the bikes and away we go to the wrong ferry. the guys are gone before we realize and now we need to get to the car ferry to reach our orchard island. lucky for all travellers, help is always one step away (for the right price).  we’re now the most frustrated we have ever been. we must hire a boat to take us directly to the family ranch or take another scooter ride to the right ferry.  once we calmed down, we bit the bullet and hired the boat ride directly to the orchard guest house.  this $7 a night room has just cost us a total of $35 to get there.

looking through out boat

looking through out boat

after spending two relaxing nights, a day of boating around the floating market and canals, we left on our way to the cambodian border.  another motorcycle ride on skinny little pathways and bridges and we made it to our bus – a local bus. once again the seats were cleared for us and we were on our way to chau doc.  we were told the ride should be about 4 hours long.  after the first hour or so we hit traffic.  we were at a dead stop on the road behind a line of working trucks, minivans, and other buses.  the roads beside the bus are filled with scooters and people.  the scooter guys are poaching people from the buses and vans, and at this point we don’t know whats going on.  ladies are walking up to the windows selling everything from cold water and towels to grilled corn, sticky rice, gum, you name it.  we sat in this traffic line, moving slowly – inch by inch – for at least an hour until we reached a ferry dock.  we realized what the scooters were doing now.  in the distance you could see major construction of a massive bridge.  until it gets completed, this ferry line would be a daily activity for most.

coconut candy makers

coconut candy makers

finally we had fresh air blowing in the bus again (local bus means no AC, just hot sticky and sweaty – smells real good).  an hour later we stop for lunch.  we take a seat and realize everyone’s looking at us again.  guess we’re in an area where not too many westerners pass through.  we sit down sipping our pepsi over ice and take in the silent stares.  i (jeff) begin rolling a ciggy and an old man with ho chi minh characteristics, who has been sweeping around us, takes notice.  he stops.  he stares. he smiles.  we come to realize, maybe he hasn’t seen a rolly since the last time he came across americans some 30 years ago.  jeff offers him one and he smiles and sits down in acceptance.  by now, he’s smoking in silence with a smile, others from the bus are circling around us in silence, and we just sit there and take it all in.  very much like when robin williams returns to neverland in hook and all the lost boys surround him in curiosity staring and touching.  finally the old man says two or three words softly and kindly (we have no idea what he said).  but they were probably the softest words we’ve heard in all of the vietnam language.  after this surreal moment, we load back on the bus and in a few more hours we arrive at our destination.

coconut candy...like caramel

coconut candy...like caramel

we hop on the back of a bike – with both our bags and both of us…major weight – and the guy rides us around from hotel to hotel until we find one that fits us.  now we’ve settled in, we have a great balcony to watch the kites fly in the sky, the mellow traffic below and enjoy the 24 pack of beer 333 that jeff bought and the many mangoes stacy bought.  we’re happy campers.

wo here we are, do do do do, ice cold beer in my hand, do do do do, killin them mosquitoes to survive, do do do do, hopin my next ride will be alright, do do do do , cause that’s how the mekong delta blues carries you through the night, do do do do…

xo”

honey bee man

honey bee man

mekong bees - can you find the queen?

mekong bees - can you find the queen?

wildman jeff

wildman jeff

water buffalo - keeping it cool

water buffalo - keeping it cool

starting to charge a bit now...

starting to charge a bit now...

$6 horse and carriage ride - what a rip off!

$6 horse and carriage ride - what a rip off!

boatin it - its been a looong day

boatin it - it's been a looong day

typical mekong scene

typical mekong scene

cute little whiskers!

cute little whiskers!

wood

wood

watermelon

watermelon

stacy

stacy

jeff in front of our homestay

jeff in front of our homestay

mekong cathedral

mekong cathedral

canal scene

canal scene

boy peeling fruit

boy peeling fruit

floating market

floating market

house

house

schools out

school's out

arriving in chau doc

arriving in chau doc

jeff + beer = happy camper

jeff + beer = happy camper

moon rising

moon rising

dusk settling from our balcony view

dusk settling from our balcony view

Guest Blog – North Captiva Island


Mangoes ready for the takingby Sarah Rapp
Resident, North Captiva Island

Did you know that besides Florida, no other states report the production of mangoes? Consequently, Florida is the main United States producer of this fruit. Mango Mania is a festival held at the German American Social Club (2101 S.W. Pine Island Road, Cape Coral during the month of July).

Festival-goers can taste and buy their fill of just-picked mangoes of assorted varieties, many of which are not available in supermarkets. Additionally, they can learn how to grow their own and buy a tree. There’s music, dancing and even some non-mango comestibles for anyone who simply can’t live on mangoes alone.

If you don’t have time to go to the festival, order mangoes from the market, or stop at one of the local fruit stands on the way to the marina. The fruits vary in shape (kidney, round, oblong, oval) and weight ranges from a few ounces to five pounds.  Although the fruit will ripen on the tree, it is usually picked green and will ripen quickly. The fruit is just delicious…so why not celebrate your own mango mania while visiting North Captiva!

 

Mango Salsa
Fresh mango salsa is easy to make and perfect with halibut or salmon or as the salsa in fish tacos.
Ingredients:
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced (about 1 1/2 cup)
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 Jalapeño chile, minced (include ribs and seeds for a hotter taste if desired)
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste. Also good with diced red bell pepper
Directions:
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the salsa ends up being a little too hot or acidic for your taste, you can temper it by adding some diced avocado.

Mango Salsa

Fresh mango salsa is easy to make and perfect with halibut or salmon or as the salsa in fish tacos.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced (about 1 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Jalapeño chile, minced (include ribs and seeds for a hotter taste if desired)
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste. Also good with diced red bell pepper

Directions:

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the salsa ends up being a little too hot or acidic for your taste, you can temper it by adding some diced avocado.

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (22 of 40)

chna beach surf

china beach surf

where to begin?????
“let’s see, we spent 8 days in china beach which is located half way between danang and hoi an. and we loved every second of it.  the only reason we left was cause we’ve now started a bit of a schedule to meet my mom.  but, open long beach, very similar to hosugar (sp?) of southern france according to jeff, just not quite the waves right now. though, we did get one day of surf there. that’s right, WE.  i kinda freaked and came in fairly quickly though cause it was getting too big for the likes of me.

jeff or mike, i think mike (new friend)

jeff or mike, i think mike (new friend)

our little hotel was quaint, on a dirt road that led to the beach where two little seafood restaurants were.  the first few nights the vacant pine forest separated our hotel and the beach filled up with hundreds of high schoolers (you can see it in some older pics) going crazy with karaoke, games, singing and dancing…the vietnamese girls know how to get down.  we were pulled into a few little dance circles not sure what to do, and both of us were pretty seductively ‘freaked’ by the locals… pretty funny. we have it all recorded (with sound)..classic.

from china beach we chose to stay one night in hoi an; a beautiful city with plenty of old architecture NOT destroyed by the wars past. we rented a motor and went a few days from china beach, but chose not to stay cause it was pricier than where we were anticipating and hot, with no beach at your doorstep.  we got some clothes made, had some traditional foods and then were on our way south to jungle beach, another beach paradise north of nhe trang by 60km.

stacy - surfs up!

stacy - surf's up!

our clothes and a pair of sandals turned out pretty good and we were on our way, back on the night bus onward south.  we heard about jungle beach through our china beach place owner, hoa (a very nice guy who loves his beer).  we got on our bus, got some cozy beds, and at 4:30am we were dropped off alone in the middle of nowhere at a gas station. we made it.

to our surprise, but not really cause we’re in vietnam, two guys came out of the bushes and offered us rides to jungle beach, which is a 30km ride from there.  after some negotiating we were on our way, once again on the back of a scooter with our way-too-large of bags (we weighed them and they are each teetering on 60lbs!!!).  we had an amazing cruise, starting in the dark with the stars, then watching the sunrise over these beautiful landscapes of rice paddies and what smelled like cow fields.  we hit the water, went through a small village, and voila, we were at the jungle beach.

china beach sunrise

china beach sunrise

an amazing place. it really was a backpackers resort.  a private-ish beach, white sands, warmer water than where we had just come from (not that it was cold by any means, even up there), beautiful landscapes of jungle and hills with boulders and monkeys, great little rustic bungalows, play areas with a ping pong table, and some great food. it was ‘all inclusive’ per se – 22 bucks each, which included all meals and housing.  alcohol was extra. overall a bit pricier than we were used to, but the experience was great and worth every bit of it.

it was really something out of ‘the beach’ but all positives… there were around 20 of us for the three days we were there.  you get up around 7 or 8ish, walk around the beach, come up for a delicious breakfast that you get to pick (great scrambled eggs, the best yet, pancakes, frenchtoast…) then you do what you do best and hang on the beach. we all have our own little shades made of bamboo and we laid out, read and surfed. thats right, surfed!

morning volleyball sessions, china beach

morning volleyball sessions, china beach

jeff finally had his moments. me too! it was great.  we showed up in the morning, everyone already down on the beach, but nobody was messing with the shitty, but workable surfboards.  jeff picked up the long board, hit some waves, showed me how, and then everyone was out wanting to learn – it was great and hilarious. jeff was pushing german guys bigger than him on the board into a wave.  everyone else was from europe so they had no experience but were dying to learn. it was so much fun!

at lunch we’re all summoned from the beach by the nice ladies and served a family style meal that is absolutely delish.  we go back to the beach, repeat, the ladies bring us amazing juicy fresh fruit in the afternoon, beach, then dinner at 6ish…amazing food again.  and then it’s back to the beach for party and bonfires with guitar and singing galore.  it just felt so good to be surrounded by people of like minds doing what we do best…chillin. we listened and sang and just had an awesome time with great people.  it was one of those moments where we were waiting for something bad to happen cause everything was so great. even the local guys were singing on the beach and sharing some local folk songs.

another china beach sunrise

another china beach sunrise

after a few days though, we had to depart.  sylvio, the canadian trippy owner booked us a night train to saigon and we were on our way. coincidentally, 10 others were leaving so the timing was right.  hopefully we’ll run into some again on the road…. the travel road always seems to be smaller than it really is.

we arrived in saigon, now ho chi minh city at 4:30am after a well rested train ride, bed and all, got a hotel and started our exploring.  we ended up getting a cyclo, a three wheel bike and drove around town.  our driver was hilarious and even famous; he got his photo taken riding his bike in some tourist mag. he wooed us with his charm and we were on our way.

little girl, wish we knew what she was saying

little girl, wish we knew what she was saying

first to the war remnants museum, the last of our war visits.  a moving, depressing, amazing museum, definitely from the VC prospective.  the favorite part of it was the section dedicated to all the correspondence/photographers that had lost their lives in the war. an amazing photo collection…the most moving part of the museum. american, french, english, japanese, korean, and vietnamese photographers. such telling stories.  there was also a section on agent orange (appaling pictures and even two or three you could call it, real babies kept in liquid so you can witness the atrocities the poison causes), the tiger cage jails that the south used, one containing an old french guillotine (old school be-header) that was used through the early 60′s, old weapons/bombs, and alas, a beautiful display of local children’s artwork on how they see a peaceful world.  great museum, but we’re done depressing ourselves.

hoi an river

hoi an river

we then moved on the cho’lon, the old china town. it’s not much of a china town now as many migrated/fled during and after the war.  now it’s all in construction with whole blocks being demolished to create new streets. we saw a cool pagoda, lady in the sky , that was built in 906AD.  then he took us for lunch, some delicious pho, our best yet. and he told us more of his past.

oh before that, the best part – he was telling us he has 4 kids (3 boys and 1 girl) where he lives and so forth. he recently found a baby at the rail station. crazy saigon.  no one knew where he came from so he took him home and has been raising him for the last 8 months.  he was telling us this story and then kept saying something but we couldn’t really understand. then it came to us:  he was asking us to take this baby home as our own!!!!!!!!!!! he said he’d accompany us to the police station, get all the paperwork figured out, and then we could take him back to the states with us. he then started pulling out pictures of this adorable little boy. we said thank you but no thank you.  but throughout the day he kept asking…. any takers???

hoi an lanterns...everywhere!

hoi an lanterns...everywhere!

so, we had lunch, he told of us his fight with the south from 68-71ish, he was shot twice but just barely, showing us scars above his eye and on his thumb. one of his two brothers disappeared in the war. the remaining of them served in prison for four years, at the end of the war, until they memorized the words of communism and were able to convince them of their dedication.  now he still isn’t allowed in northern vietnam for his past southern alliance.

it was a great day spent with our friend. now we’re ditchin this massive city and heading south to the mekong…land of fruit and mosquitoes!

i’m sure there’s a lot more to be said, but jeffs waiting patiently outside so its time to go…. plus these computers are so damn slow you have no idea how long this takes just to do this and upload a measly 15 photos….when we have so much more!

peace and love”

hoi an streets

hoi an streets

hoi an alley

hoi an alley

carving station

carving station

old french style building walls

old french style building walls

view from back of our hotel hoi an

view from back of our hotel hoi an

jungle mountains

jungle mountains

campfire singing

campfire singing

our jungle beach bungalow

our jungle beach bungalow

bungalow inside

bungalow inside

classic watch dog

classic watch dog

hoi an market

hoi an market

eggs

eggs

lettuce

lettuce

jungle beach - to the beach

jungle beach - to the beach

path from dining to bungalow

path from dining to bungalow

cyclo with our famous driver

cyclo with our famous driver

ho chi minh sity

ho chi minh sity

our could be son

our 'could be' son

wishes and prayers

wishes and prayers

incense prayer to last a month

incense prayer to last a month

pho lunch with our driver

pho lunch with our driver

our famous driver

our famous driver

In Honor of Father’s Day…

OK, so you’ve already given your dad that customized necktie embellished with your photograph on it, now you have a little down time while your dad is out getting acquainted with the new gas grill your mom gave him.  Before your family sits down to eat, now’s your chance to read up on Beachhouse.com’s  picks for the top baseball parks to visit….maybe next Father’s Day, instead of giving him some cheap cologne that smells like Robert Downey Jr. trying to cover up after a bender, you can spare your dad the hassle of faking that he loves your gift and give him something he will truly enjoy – tickets to a baseball game and some quality bonding time with you…and a couple of ball park brews never hurt anybody – emphasis on couple.

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs

Wrigley Field is one of the oldest and most notorious fields in the United States.  Despite the field’s notoriety, the Chicago Cubs haven’t exactly made a name for themselves – unless you count the fact that they have never won the World Series, and now that the Red Socks have won theirs, the Cubs are officially the worst cursed team in the league.  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy yourself at the home of Ferris Bueller’s infamous day off, deep dish pizza and organized crime.

AT&T Park, San Francisco Giants

If your dad likes the finer things in life, he’d love to be treated to a day at the on-the-water AT&T Park.  Some of baseball’s greatest call this park home, including Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and all time home run leader, Barry Bonds.  The park has every amenity your dad could ask for and all kinds of classic and not so expected stadium food – the crab sandwiches and Cuban cuisine (in honor of Orlando Cepeda – former Giant) are some of the fan favorites.  And if your dad is the kind to get a little out of hand after a couple brewskies, it won’t faze this crowd – they’re used to scandals (Steroids anyone?)

PetCo Park, San Diego Padres

It may seem biased to have more than one California stadium on this list, but if you lived here, you’d know why we’re biased.  Even though the National League West is quite possibly the weakest division in sports, the Padres stadium and ambiance of the surrounding cityscape’s is unparalleled.  It’s always sunny and there’s plenty to do – so if the team ain’t winning, go surfing or get tipsy with the college kids.

New Yankee Stadium, New York Yankees

One of the most loved (and hated) franchises in all of sports, as of the 2009 season, the Yankees have a brand spankin new stadium to call home.  They left their monument to baseball history behind them and started this season with a new coach.  Besides being the most winningest team in the history of baseball, they have, arguably, the most loyal fans in the game…so you and your dad, foam fingers and pin-stripes in place, will fit right in.

Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox

Fenway Park is the oldest stadium in the US, making it a perfect place for a dad who loves the classics.  With 2 recent championship titles under their jockstrap, the Red Sox are one of the most intimidating teams to compete with and one of the most exciting teams to watch.  Not for the faint of heart or dad’s with young kids (and virgin ears) Sox fans are hard drinking and curse like sailors…they’re also overwhelmingly passionate about their team.  After the game’s over there’s still plenty to do in one of the oldest city in America – so buy a pint, start dropping your r’s and you’ll fit right in.

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (21 of 40)

sleeping bus

sleeping bus

DMZ tour
*** this entry is long and just deals with the DMZ tour and may drag on, so beware! and our history’s not so good, so bare with it***

arriving to central vietnam, we entered the main hub of the ‘american war’ – as its called here – naturally, since it marked the border between north and south, hue, the city we stayed at, has a much older and richer history, mostly being part of a citadel constructed in 1806 by the emperor ly, later destroyed by the french, then rebuilt, only to be destroyed by the american, and then once again bandaged up.

a very cool site: old brick walls with castle like towers every hundred feet, surrounded by a moat of course.  and the emperor himself gave this region the great food we get to eat today.  he was so picky and cocky, he wanted 50 different dishes prepared by 50 different chefs and served to him by 50 different servants….quite a guy! but, citadel aside, this is where the american war tours begin…..

gettin comfortable

gettin comfortable

the DMZ tour takes you on a bus (12 hours in all, 6am to 6pm!) and drives an hour north of hue to the de-militarized zone which lies 5km south of the ben hai river and 5 km north of the river, from ocean to the laos border (about 65 km).

a little buff up on the history, the ben hai river served as the border between north and south vietnam after the elections failed to happen in the early 60′s (failed because the southern catholic ruler refused to hold an election with US aid pretty much because it was feared the communist leader ho chi minh would win).  so, then during the ‘war’, the DMZ area was created to serve as a safe-hold for civilians who wanted to cross the border.  of course, as ‘peace keepings’ usually never really mean peace, this ended up being the scene of the largest battles throughout the US involvement.

hue citadel

hue citadel

so, this tour takes you from the ocean almost to the laos border and back, stopping to look at old bases, stations, trails, tunnels, etc… that were significant in the war. unfortunately it was more of a driving tour than anything else, and the tour guide’s english was barely understandable.  but still, here’s a run down of what we saw and experienced:

rock pile: a little more than a pile of rocks, this is a giant mountain, rather rocky, that served as the US helicopter pad as well as look out station. now, it looks like a beautiful green mountain in the midst of a valley, but during the war, it served as a vital tool for the US

us artillery

us artillery

hien luong bridge/ho chi minh trail: this was a little more vague for us because there was nothing in our LP book and we couldn’t understand the tour guide… but, the ho chi minh trail served as a path of the VC (charlie) and its supplies and weapons.  now its pretty much all highway (the one which we were driving on) but we were shown pictures of the steep dirty trails that it served as in the past.  the bridge itself we’re not too sure about, other than it was part of the trail and now a big fancy one was built in honor of it.

landscape: to us, the landscape was beautiful and green, but to the trained eye you would know that the land should be lush with jungles.  in reality, the hills were rolling with green grass and shrubs, still tropical.  but prior to the war, there were thick jungles with trees and canopies, which coincidentally served as good cover for ‘charlie’.  so, the US not only bombed the place but sprayed herbicides everywhere, killing every plant around. and still today, the trees and many other species/plants haven’t returned.

crash remnants, khe san

crash remnants, khe san

khe sanh base: this was the mother-load. others may know it as ‘khe sanh hell’, the largest battle in all of the US occupation in vietnam.  short story goes something like this (bare with it , some of you probablyly know more than we do) – US intelligence gets wind of charlie moving around in these distant mountains, south of the ben ai river border, only 20km east of the laos border.   traditionally, these mountains are filled with local tribes who don’t know or care not much of what’s going on in the rest of their country, they live the simple life.  with this new intelligence, president johnson and his top officers decide the US needs to establish a presence there.  so, we go there, pretty much demolish the villages (not in a killing way, but just take over, ruining the traditional livelihoods…), create an airstrip and make our presence.  in 1967, more movement was detected around the hills and the US predicted a major attack. after filling the place with marines, we were ready, or so we thought.  as nothing seemed to be happening, supposedly, soldiers started wondering what the heck they were all doing in the middle of nowhere.

helicopter

helicopter

there was no real land to be conquered and no visible threat to them.  but on january 21 1968, battle began as the US was then surrounded by charlie and local guerrillas.  after the largest sum of american deaths in one battle, the US fled khe sanh on april 7th (not to mention how many villagers and civilians died).  however and coincidently, on january 23rd (i think) the TET offensive went off, and the north vietnamese had attacked/taken over dozens of cities and towns (including saigon) in the south.  a major ‘loss’ to the US. it turns out, the charlie that was around the mountains was a diversion to get all the attention up there and let charlie slip by US intelligence to accomplish the TET offensive.  so, pretty much, the khe sanh battle was looked at as not necessary. soldiers then coined the phrase “in the middle of nowhere fighting for nothing.”  nothing good came from the troops being stationed up there and from what we’ve read and seen it seems like both the soldiers and the US people saw khe sanh as a major if not stupid mistake on the US government’s part. sorry we can’t explain it better, just google it.

old bunker

old bunker

but what WE saw: now, a memorial museum on the site as well as old helicopters, bunkers, tanks, and bombs.  the museum was breathtaking. filled with old photos and testimonies of locals and soldiers. and everything is actually pretty matter of fact.  i think there’s a pretty general consensus that the US made some bad calls, but they’re not throwing it in your face here at all.  it’s just amazing to see all this in person with your own eyes and look around you and see the stories come to life per se right in front of you.  outside the museum were two american helicopters -huge!!! as well as an artillery gun, a tank, bombs…… the photos will show you…oh and even the remnants of the airstrip where nothing grows, though the rest of the landscape is all beautiful coffee plants.  needless to say we left there with a whole new feeling.

US military tank

US military tank

vinh moc tunnels: now, north of the ben hai river border and on the coast, the local villagers took flee underground…for 6 years! 60 families took cover from all the bombing above and lived in a three tier tunnel maze reaching up to 23 m below the surface.  and in this time, 17 babies were born, all which survived the war.  there are also tunnels like this around ho chi minh city,much more complex but supposedly slightly smaller and more tourists :)  so we got to venture down these, still ducking quite a bit.  it was amazing to see the handy work amongst all this red clay. they used bamboo to support the tunnels and built wells, bathrooms, bomb shelters, a larger meeting room, and lots of stairs.  if we thought about it too hard, you could get very claustrophobic down there as you’re walking with a tour of 20 people in these tiny tunnels.  at least today they’ve wired them with electricity so that was at least comforting. overall the tour was eye-opening but our bumms were sore from sitting so much!

used and unused bombs

used and unused bombs

some additions…

khe sanh: this (worded by the vietnamese) was the biggest ruse of the war – the vietnamese gave every appearance of threatening khe sang, surrounding the place with thousands of troops and shelling the base relentlessly. no serious attempt to seize the marice base ever occurred.  the vietnamese purpose was to distract westmoreland’s attention fom their preparations for the real dein bein phu of the american war, the surprise nationwide offensive at tet, the lunar new year holiday, of january 1968, which broke the will of the johnson administration and the american public to continue to prosecute the conflict.  the ruse succeeded.

a guerrilla monument

a guerrilla monument

a heartbreaking story overhead from a US vet: stationed in the beginning of the war, late 50′s i believe, they arrived to a village in central vietnam and was greeted by the local chief.  he asked why they were here and who they were.  he sensed trouble and told the soldiers that they walked and acted just like the vietnamese men that had just visited previously (charlie).  when told they had came up from saigon, the chief said they had no idea what saigon was (just to prove how remote this part of the country was).  they proceeded to tour around this village and others. they were ordered to recruit villagers. most did, but some didn’t. one in particular was a 16 year old boy.  he began running away and one of his fellow soldiers was ordered to shoot. he did and killed him on the spot. the mother ran over and held him crying profusely.  the general or colonal, whomever was in charge, was saying ‘why won’t she shut up damn it, gooks have no feelings, why is she crying like that’. a soldier replied, ‘we just shot and killed her son sir’. but the head honcho proceeded to swear and curse her tears…..

flowers growing among old bomb shells

flowers growing among old bomb shells

old photo - soldier hugging his fallen friend

old photo - soldier hugging his fallen friend

DMZ crossing

DMZ crossing

tunnel

tunnel

tunnel construction - it took 20 months of digging day and night to build them

tunnel construction - it took 20 months of digging day and night to build them

in the tunnel

in the tunnel

old village photo

old village photo

rock pile today

rock pile today

old photo of ho chi minh trail

old photo of ho chi minh trail

new bridge

new bridge


A Recipe From Each Continent of the World (2 of 7)

Africa:  African Potato Stew & Ugali – native to Kenya

Stew Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cups onions, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • 2 cups cauliflower cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 medium sweet potato cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 cups collard greens, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup dark raisins
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup shelled peas (for garnish)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper (to taste)

Now What?

  • In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat – a add onions and garlic and cook them for 5 minutes (or until onions become transparent and soften).  Stirr occasionally
  • Add ginger, seeds, coriander and cloves – cook (stirring frequently) for 2 minutes
  • Next add the potatoes and gradually stir in the 4 cups of water.  Then turn the heat up to high
  • Once the mixture comes to a boil, stir in 1 teaspoon of salt and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer the stew (uncovered) for 5 minutes and stir occasionally
  • Stir in the cauliflower, sweet potato, collard greens & raisins and continue to cook for 10 minutes (or until the potatoes & sweet potatoes are tender)
  • Last, season the stew with the vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and add in more water if the stew is too dry – garnish with peas

Serve hot and Enjoy!

Ugali Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • 3 or 4 cups maize meal (a bit more coarse that American corn meal, however, corn meal will work fine too)

Now What?

  • In large pot, bring your water to a boil
  • Add the maize meal, stirring to prevent lumps
  • Gradually add more maize meal to make a thick mixture (it will resemble grits until it cooks down a bit more)
  • Continue to stir until the maize meal is well cooked and mixture is about the consistency of Play Dough
  • Remove the ball of dough from the pot and place onto a serving plate – the ugali should hold its shape
  • Traditionally, diners pinch off pieces of the ball and use it to “sop up” soups, stews or sauces

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (20 of 40)

arriving to the caves

arriving to the caves

descent of the dragon
“the junk/boat was fairly big – it had 10 rooms on the first floor, dinning room for 20 + on the second, and a deck up top.  we started with lunch which was decent.  all-inclusive usually means the food’s gonna suck, and in this case, it pretty much all did. the meals on the boat were okay: sticky rice, fried something (either french fries, fish, calamari, peanuts, peas, you name it) nem (fried spring rolls), grilled fish (unfillet’d of course), steamed cabage of some sort, and sauteed noodles with either a meat or fish…. like i said, decent, but bland for sure.  and as drinks weren’t included, not even water, we suffered cause we refused to pay the 4x markup price…although we did splurg once on a beer.

keeping with food, the food on the island at the hotel we stayed at was horrible.  it was as if you were at the worst hospital ever, and it was ‘chinese food day’, slopped up by the lunch room lady played by chris farley… horrible i tell you! and it made me sick and even jeff a bit too.

Food aside…. the bay was great.  Our boat first took us to a giant cave on an island.  The boat pulls up to the cement dock stairway and then the music instantly starts.  It`s like we`re at disneyland! The load speaker is spitting out some form of traditional music followed by a vietnamese voice, and then an english voice.  Now we`re on the ride… She explains to keep the island clean by depositing all rubbage in the Penguin and Dolphin trash cans and stay on the path… Cross between Jurassic Park or Disneyland for sure.  We hiked up a short stairway to enter this massive cave.  It was totally unbelievable.  For the biggest cave we will probably ever see in our lives.  All in all it`s the size of a small mall after you`ve walked it all and it`s tall, a huge room of many forms and shapes. But, continuing with the disney theme, they`ve wired it with electricity and colored lights reflect off different walls or bottoms to represent water i guess or something… kinda crazy.  Still the natural beauty prevailed.  Van Whee took us through with his lazer light and pointed out all the shapes of people and creatures you could see, like when you`re looking at clouds.  But, he forgot to distribute enough drugs for the rest of us so we could be on his same plane….  After 25 minutes, we started to exit the cave, only to find the beautiful bay has now been encompassed by a massive wind and rain storm.  We cancelled the second cave we were to hike to and made our way down the slippery cement stairway to our Junk.
Now, we`re soaking wet and stuck on the boat realizing there went our afternoon of kayaking around the bay.  The boat starts its departure and we`re on our way to find cover in a cove around the bay.  As we`re moving along, I of course bring up whats the liklihood of a boat like this tipping over.  After Jeff and this guy from Boston discuss the decisions made its too big to tip, it would rather have to sink from hitting a rock or something.  Moments later, we hear a crash outside and one of the deck hands rushes inside and yells something loud and crazy that then results with all 20 of us franticlly moving to one side of the boat to balance it out.  The sound had come from two of the beautiful giant flower pots they had outside that were obviously not secured down as they slide around breaking and going overboard.  It seems that we had got caught at just the imperfect time in this wind tunnel between these two islands as we were trying to get around them.  It took about 10 minutes of shifting side to side and opening the windows so the rainy wind could blow through the ship rather than at it, until we were safely motored to cover.  Kinda crazy and exciting, at least since we survived it!
Since our afternoon was shot, we ended up taking a long nap in our actually very comfortable and cozy room.  Then dinner while we watched lightning and thunder surround us.
In the morning we awoke at 630 and hit up the kayaks now that it had cleared and the sun was beginning to shine.  We row`d around for 30 minutes or so then retreated to our room and warmed up before breakfast.  Then after our horrible cold breakfast, we motored over to Cat Ba island where we would spend the next night.
Now we seriously were on Jurassic Park.  We got in our little bus and drove through amazing limestone peaks where we were awaiting T Rex to jump out at any moment.  Unfortunately I guess we were a few million years too late.  Our first stop was the national park.  We hiked a short but gruesome hike to the top of a peak where we climbed a scary old rigidy army look out tower and gazed accross the mountain peaks.  And looking down at the old army base (VC army).  Very cool, but super scary,for me at least, Jeff I guess isn`t fazed much by heights, but half the people couldn`t even make it to the top.  I did, but I could feel my legs almost about to give out if I thought about it too hard, or looked down through the rusty old crate top.  After the trek we went to our mediocore hotel, had horrible lunch, then hit the beach up (cause now its sunny).  Went for a dip, sunbathed, then I got sick and couldn`t really leave the room, or toilet for that matter.  Not much going on the island but a lot of building.  There were whole areas cleared out with the giant billboards showing pictures of the future projects that looked like condominium developements and more resort  hotels… the new Phuket of vietnam, too bad.
On the third day we boat`d back about two hours to mainland, sunbathing on the top deck, not too shabby.
Bia Hoi, our only saving grace.  Translates to Beer Fresh.  Only 18 cents a mug if you can believe that! Tastes kinda like dirty fermented water at first, but after one or two you get used to it.  Its made by locals, unfermented and dranken on the street corners or little cafes.  That`s been part of our daily routine, meeting lots of expats from around the world that are here teaching english or own tourism copanies or restaurants.
Food, we`ve tride fried corn kernals rubbed in a butter custard thing (ultimate popcorn), squid jerky dipped in a sweet and hot sauce, kebabs, either in a pita or baguetts (decent), and more pho (still our first experience has been the best).
Now we`re loaded up on oranges and we`re getting on a 13 hour busride south to Hue in the middle of the DMZ (demilitarized zone) which at once was an imperial capitol and has an old citidel in it…. we`ll see.  Then Jeff just might have his luck as there may be surf at the infamous China Beach which is just south of Hue….
Overall, Hanoi is still in our tops.  We found out it is a city of around 8million now, with 6.5 million scooters! We`ll be uploading photos to prove it at the next stop.  Great people though, with some hasslers everywhere, but we`re used to it now….
Peace and love for now!
xostacy and jeff

food aside…. the bay was great.  our boat first took us to a giant cave on an island.  the boat pulls up to the cement dock stairway and then the music instantly starts.  it’s like we’re at disneyland!  the loud speaker is spitting out some form of traditional music followed by a vietnamese voice, and then an english voice.  now we’re on the ride… she explains to keep the island clean by depositing all rubbage in the penguin and dolphin trash cans and stay on the path… cross between jurassic park or disneyland for sure.

Van Whee and Captain, chugging beers, you just cant see it in the pic

van whee and captain, chugging beers, you just cant see it in the pic

we hiked up a short stairway to enter this massive cave.  it was totally unbelievable.  by far the biggest cave we will probably ever see in our lives.  all in all it’s the size of a small mall – a tall, huge room of many forms and shapes. but, continuing with the disney theme, they’ve wired it with electricity and colored lights reflect off different walls or bottoms to represent water i guess…or something… kinda crazy.  still, the natural beauty prevailed.  van whee took us through with his laser light and pointed out all the shapes of people and creatures you could see, like when you’re looking at clouds…but he forgot to distribute enough drugs for the rest of us so we could be in his same frame of mind….  after 25 minutes, we started to exit the cave, only to find the beautiful bay has now been encompassed by a massive wind and rain storm.  we cancelled the second cave we were to hike to and made our way down the slippery cement stairway to our junk.

rushing from one side of the boat to the other

rushing from one side of the boat to the other

now, we’re soaking wet and stuck on the boat realizing “there went our afternoon of kayaking around the bay.”  the boat starts its departure and we’re on our way to find cover in a cove around the bay.  as we’re moving along, I of course bring up “whats the likelihood of a boat like this tipping over?”  after jeff and this guy from boston discuss and come to the decision that it’s too big to tip, (rather it would have to sink from hitting a rock or something).  moments later, we hear a crash outside and one of the deck hands rushes inside and yells something loud and crazy that then results with all 20 of us frantically moving to one side of the boat to balance it out.  the sound had come from two of the beautiful giant flower pots they had outside that were obviously not secured down as they slide around breaking and flying overboard.  it seems that we had got caught at just the imperfect time in this wind tunnel between these two islands as we were trying to get around them.

our nice room below deck

our nice room below deck

it took about 10 minutes of shifting side to side and opening the windows so the rainy wind could blow through the ship rather than at it, until we had safely motored to cover.  kinda crazy and exciting – at least since we survived it!

since our afternoon was shot, we ended up taking a long nap in our actually very comfortable and cozy room.  then dinner while we watched the lightning and thunder that surround us.

in the morning we awoke at 6:30 and hit up the kayaks now that it had cleared and the sun was beginning to shine.  we rowed around for 30 minutes or so then retreated to our room and warmed up before breakfast.  then after our horrible cold breakfast, we motored over to cat ba island where we would spend the next night.

view of the island from our kayak

view of the island from our kayak

now we seriously were on jurassic park.  we got in our little bus and drove through amazing limestone peaks where we were awaiting t rex to jump out at any moment.  unfortunately i guess we were a few million years too late.  our first stop was the national park.  we hiked a short but gruesome hike to the top of a peak where we climbed a scary old rickety army look-out tower and gazed across the mountain peaks and could look down at the old army base (vc army).  very cool, but super scary, for me at least.  jeff isn’t fazed much by heights, but half the people couldn’t even make it to the top.  i did, but i could feel my legs almost about to give out if i thought about it too hard, or looked down through the rusty old crate top.

fishing village

fishing village

after the trek we went to our mediocre hotel, had a horrible lunch, then hit up the beach (cause now it’s sunny).  we went for a dip, sunbathed, then i got sick and couldn’t really leave the room, or toilet for that matter.  not much going on on the island but a lot of building.  there were whole areas cleared out with the giant billboards showing pictures of the future projects that looked like condominium developments and more resort  hotels… the new phuket of vietnam – too bad.

on the third day we boated back about two hours to mainland, sunbathing on the top deck, not too shabby.

floating villages

floating villages

bia hoi – our only saving grace – translates to beer fresh.  only 18 cents a mug if you can believe that!  tastes kinda like dirty fermented water at first, but after one or two you get used to it.  it’s made by locals, unfermented and drank on the street corners or in little cafes.  that’s been part of our daily routine, in addition to meeting lots of expats from around the world that are here teaching english or who own tourism companies or restaurants.

food, we’ve tried fried corn kernels rubbed in a butter custard thing (ultimate popcorn), squid jerky dipped in a sweet and hot sauce, kebabs, either in a pita or baguettes (decent), and more pho (still our first experience has been the best).

kayaking couple

kayaking couple

now we’re loaded up on oranges and we’re getting on a 13 hour bus ride south to hue in the middle of the DMZ (de-militarized zone) which once was an imperial capitol and has an old citadel in it…. we’ll see.  then jeff just might have his luck as there may be surf at the infamous china beach which is just south of hue….

overall, hanoi is still in our tops.  we found out it is a city of around 8 million now, with 6.5 million scooters! we’ll be uploading photos to prove it at the next stop.  great people though, with some hasslers everywhere, but we’re used to it now….

peace and love!

xo, stacy and jeff”

rusty stairs

rusty stairs

at top of peak

at top of peak

mountain views

mountain views

top of lookout tower

top of lookout tower

lookin down

lookin down

sign on top

sign on top

seriously tall

seriously tall

and seriously old and rusty...missing last step!

and seriously old and rusty...missing last step!

from below looking up

from below looking up

army barracks

army barracks

old army barracks

old army barracks

cat ba harbor

cat ba harbor

jeff takin a dip

jeff takin a dip

sunset

sunset

3rd day on the boat and sunny!

3rd day on the boat and sunny!

always sportin the flag

always sportin the flag

view off junk deck

view off junk deck

front of boat

front of boat

this does no justice to show how many there really are

this does no justice to show how many there really are

beer hoi

beer hoi

motor transport for anything and everything

motor transport for anything and everything

lunch

lunch

A Recipe from Each Continent of the World (1 of 7)

Asia:  Tom Ka Gai Soup – native to Thailand

Ingredients:

  • Good quality Chinese chicken stock – 1 cup
  • Coconut milk – 1 cup
  • Fresh or frozen lemongrass – 1/2 a  stalk
  • Galangal – fresh – 6 slices (If you don’t have any at home, you can order some online)
  • Kaffir Lime Leaves – 2 (hand-torn)
  • Thai bird’s eye chillies (or Serrano chillies) – 2-3 (big slices so you can avoid them easily)
  • (If you don’t have any of the above, Amazon ships a package of all the fresh ingredients you need for the soup.)
  • Fish sauce – 1 tbsp (The saltiness can vary a lot across brands, so start with less always.)
  • Lime juice – 2 tbsp
  • Sugar – 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander (cilantro for the Americans) leaves – 2 tbsp
  • Boneless chicken breast (or Tofu) – 2 breasts or 1 package
  • Straw mushrooms (or regular button mushrooms) – 4 (sliced)

Now What?

  • With lemongrass, recipes generally only call for the bottom 6 inches or so (the white part).  The rest is woody and can be trashed. Using the flat side of a cleaver or a heavy object, pound and bruise the lemongrass to releases the flavor before cutting into 2 inch segments. Easy with the cleaver or you can do way more than bruise the lemongrass – we don’t want any missing fingers!
  • Pour the stock into a pot and bring to a boil.   Then toss the galangal, lemongrass, sugar, and lime leaves in and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add the coconut milk, chillies and fish sauce and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • Lastly, add the chicken (or tofu) and mushrooms and cook till the protein is just cooked. (Chicken will be done shortly after you first see it turning all white on the outside – tofu can be cooked until you get the desired texture – 20 minutes for more meaty tofu and shorter if you like it tender).
  • For the grand finale, turn off the heat and add your lime juice and garnish with coriander leaves (wait till the end to add the lime juice in order to maintain that citrusy goodness – the longer you cook it the more it will mellow). Test for saltiness and sourness. The galangal should give you some good earthy flavor, there will be some tasty salty/sweetness from the coconut milk, and a fair bit of lime and chili flavor.  (If you need to kick up the salt factor, throw in some extra fish sauce – lemon juice will kick up the sour factor.

Enjoy!  (Or as they say in Thailand, kin-khao-hai-a-roi-na   กินข้าวให้อร่อยนะ)

Best places to get Patriotic for the 4th of July

1.  Washington DC

Beginning with the Independence Day parade along Constitution Avenue, the Nation’s capital has activities all day long to keep you busy this 4th.  After the parade, head on over to the US Capitol’s West Lawn for the FREE Capitol Fourth Concert – the National Symphony Orchestra as well as some pop artists will rock out until the fireworks begin with a spectacular display over the Washington Monument.  Of course, the National Mall’s iconic fireworks show, launched from the Lincoln Memorial Reflection Pool is hard to beat!

2.  Mount Rushmore

Celebrate a day early with Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln in South Dakota – Mount Rushmore kicks the festivities off on July 3rd!  Education programs and entertainment, including bands, presidential re-enactors and children’s programs, and even a Military fly-over are scheduled throughout the day with fireworks beginning at 9:20.

3.  Philadelphia

Harness your inner brotherly love and get your 4th on at the location the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were drafted.  Once the stomping ground of the founding fathers, Philly hasn’t forgotten its roots.  After almost 2 weeks of gearing up, beginning on the weekend of June 26th with the Taste of Philadelphia on the Penn’s Landing waterfront, live entertainment from top-notch talent and a dazzling display of fireworks over the Delaware River.  On the 4th, Revelers will anxiously await the sun to go down, when Philadelphia hosts “the biggest, most spectacular, free outdoor concert in America” with Sheryl Crow headlining this year.  Afterward, stick around for an amazing fireworks grand finale set against the dramatic Art Museum.

4.  At a Baseball Game

Is there a better way to celebrate America’s birthday than partaking in America’s favorite past time?  I’d be surprised if a once-a-year mandatory meal of hot dogs, peanuts, ice cream and your frosty beverage of choice weren’t written into an early draft of the Constitution.  With 15 Major League games to choose from on the 4th, most of which will have a fireworks show at some point, there is guaranteed to be one not too far from your hometown.  And on this day, every one’s a winner…Go USA!

5.  New York

Speaking of hot dogs – the Fourth of July in New York means it’s your chance to finally watch the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest!  Not your cup of tea?  Try taking a dinner cruise, a “Revolutionary Walking Tour,” checking out the massive Macy’s Fireworks Spectacular or enjoy a concert at Battery Park instead – this year it’s Sonic Youth taking the stage at 3:30pm.

Destin, Florida has it all!

Destin is an all-encompassing destination spot located on the Emerald Coast of Florida. Destin is also referred to as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” as it has the largest fishing vessel in Florida.

Attractions and activities in Destin include high-end shopping and dining, golfing, fishing, boating, water-sports, renowned beaches, forests, scenic state parks that are perfect for hiking, Broadway shows and well-known art galleries. This beautiful city truly has something for everyone!

Destin has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world with crystal clear water and white sand. The emerald green surf of the Gulf of Mexico is breathtakingly gorgeous and it is bordered by Destin’s beautiful beaches. There are fourteen gorgeous beach communities on this wonderful vacation spot and an abundance of water-related activities offered, including fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and boating.

There is a magnificent festival called Autumn Tides in South Walton, which is just ten miles away from Destin. This festival takes place on the beaches of South Walton and it offers a music concerts, art galleries, wine tasting, nature and cultural events, theatre, and film presentations. It is the perfect way to experience the uniqueness and beauty of the beaches around Destin!

In addition to the beaches, Destin offers a host of activities and attractions. The Gulfarium is a renowned marine park just across the bridge from Destin that has live marine shows and an enjoyable dolphin interaction program. Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park has over 40 exciting water activities including body fumes, speed slides and the world’s biggest man-made waterfall. This park is enjoyable both for the family and for couples.

Golf is very prevalent in Destin; the city has some of the best golf courses in the country including the Emerald Bay Golf Course with its three large, tropical mini-golf courses.

You ought to visit the Indian Temple Mound Museum which displays the lives of Native Americans that lived in that area 10,000 years ago. The preserved temple mound was used for political and religious ceremonies; it is an amazing site that is a must-see for everyone.

Destin also has amazing shopping malls including Alvin’s Island Tropical Department Stores and Silver Sands Factory Stores. These malls have pretty much any store that you can think of!

Finally, Destin is also known for its world-class dining; some of the restaurants in this city are nationally rated. There is a wide range of restaurants and cuisines to choose from.

Destin is truly an extremely exciting and versatile city that has something for everyone!

Guest Blog – Jeff & Stacy do SE Asia (19 of 40)

now departing the bay of halong city

now departing the bay of halong city

startin the boat tour…
“it’s amazing, our seventh day here in hanoi and we’re still walking down little streets and alleys we hadn’t done before… something always new!

we departed from the old quarter on friday the 13th to halong bay, which in vietnamese means, ‘descent of the dragon’ because if you were to fly over the bay, all the islands would look like a dragon…but from the boat it’s hard to tell.

view of the bay

view of the bay

the book actually recommends taking a tour to do halong bay because it’s just too complicated and expensive to do it on your own.  so after a day devoted to finding the REAL tourist companies that are listed in the book, we had a better idea on what we wanted.

we settled on a $53 each tour, three days two nights, one night on the boat, the other on the only inhabited island, cat ba.  we were tempted to go for a higher priced tour guaranteeing more kayaking and boating, less island, but after all was said and done, we figured it’s all the same bay, so lets save a buck.  all tours are ‘all inclusive’ minus drinks.

jeff on deck

jeff on deck

we left at 8:30am in a short bus with 18 other tourists and our tour guide van whee.  as our trip began, our lovable crazy tour guide began his orientation to us in his best english that was very hilarious and slightly frustrating.  we did learn some history of hanoi, traffic laws, history of halong and that he called the bathroom the ‘happy room’ cause you always come out happier… usually true.

after 3 hours we arrived at the harbor of halong city.  not much to see thus far.  plus it’s slightly misty/foggy so our sight could only go so far.  but the city itself is highrises, big bridges, not much to see.

we were loaded on our junk (that’s what they call a boat) and off we went!

more about the boar trip later…..”

nice weather, eh?

nice weather, eh?

stacy on deck

stacy on deck

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (18 of 40)

ho chi minh statue

ho chi minh statue

uncle ho…
today we saw uncle ho.  really we saw him in his own flesh…. embalmed of course.  at the ho chi minh mausoleum, you stand in this thick long line for about thirty minutes and you swiftly move along the outside until you reach the ‘lotus building‘ what looks like a square with pillars, and you silently enter in and weave around to where he rests…. a big, ornamental, glass coffin, resting with his hand layed upon his chest, ‘peacefully sleeping’.  you walk steady around and past him as well as the 6 manikin-like guards beside him, and then out you go.  through this there’s no pictures, bags, anything – you check all that in.  it’s a free sight, as many pilgrimages here often are.  pretty crazy, don’t know how often we’ll see something like that in our lives.  uncle ho wanted to be cremated, but after his death, his followers thought only fit to follow suit of lenin and stalin and embalm him…. crazy stuff.

breakdancers

breakdancers

after this we had our first real pho experience.  this one was pho bo (beef noodle soup, at least we hope, as we did see more fido being offered just up the street, in a real restaurant in the open )…. the grandma, lookin pretty damn old, sat us down and with no words exchanged. we saw her grab a wad of raw minced beef, throw it in a woven basket spoon, hold it in the boiling water, then dump it atop rice noodles with fresh chives, pepper , salt, and poured over a broth, and then placed these plentiful bowls in front.  that was good enough for us, we thought…. then she grabbed a plate of chicken, a plate of spring rolls and meatball things, a bowl of fresh greens (mint, coriander, lettuce), a jar of garlic, and a spicy soy sauce concoction, and began serving away…. she took much of each and dipped it in one sauce and then threw it all on top of our bowls…it was actually outrageous.  so much food and flavors and really good – as long as you didn’t look too close as what was in the meatballs or the spring rolls…..i’m sure it was all okay to eat  ; )  chased down with two room temp canned heineken, and quite a meal.  we seriously felt like we were hansel and gretal at the candy house, she would NOT stop giving us chow… after we got across we couldn’t eat anymore pho, she had her sweet smiley granddaughter clear our plates… then the bananas came out and the hot tea… we just couldn’t get enough i guess.  by this time jeff and i are cracking up at how she just won’t let down… but we know, there’s gonna be a price to it all.  and of course, she then asks for $200,000 dong (15 bucks about….) and we’re like hell no.  we figured it probably should have been around 80,000 dong, so we left her 100,000 and walked away with her shouting at us.  we passed by her again later and waved and it was all smiles

evening excercise

evening excercise

after pho time, we went to the temple of literature, the 1st school in vietnam, built in 1075 i believe.  very cool old buildings and beautiful property.

vietnam doesn’t seem to have much if any copyright laws.  the book says it’s in the works but, for now, anything goes.  so what this means is if you have one successful restaurant, hotel, tour company, store of any kind, there will be at least 10 copy cats anywhere, even if it means all 10 are lined up right next door.  it’s hilariously frustrating when you’re looking for the right one, or just trying not to go in circles when, around every corner, you see the same names…. if we’re looking for something out of the book then we just make sure the addresses really match up.  and speaking of books, we bought two:  lonely planet vietnam and mr. nice (aussie book), and both are photocopies! the covers are photocopied on hard back so you would never know… its crazy out here!

the pho shebang

the 'pho' shebang

tomorrow we head to halong bay for 3 days on a junk (boat) and to stay on an island…. should be cool!  the weather is warm to cool with a slight mist, so it’s almost perfect.  the first day we didn’t have any mist and it was perfect, but still, the mist is just that, there’s no wind, so calm seas should lie ahead….

xxxoo jeff and stacy

pho grandma and prodigy

pho grandma and prodigy

temple of literature enterance

temple of literature enterance

hello!

hello!

literature grounds

literature grounds

doctorines plaques

'doctorines' plaques

music video being filmed

music video being filmed

old

old

incense dragon

incense dragon

cool view

cool view

freaky giant turtle

freaky giant turtle

Travel Tools – Yelp Review

Founded in 2004 by a trio of MRL Ventures guys based out of San Francisco, Yelp has grown into one of the leading search and user review sites in the world.  Yelp got its name by truncating the words “Yellow Pages” into something short and catchy enough to stand out.  Already surpassing its closest rival, Citysearch, Yelp has incorporated a social networking aspect into its site hoping to capitalize on the popularity of such sites as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.  Users of the site can type in whatever they are searching for (Japanese restaurant, dry cleaners, hair salon, etc) and where they are searching (as specific as a street or neighborhood or as general as a city or zip code) and seconds later they will be rewarded with a list, sorted by popularity according to a 5-star user rating system.  Each of the results contain the basics, address, telephone, Website, as well as a blurb about the business and reviews from customers.  The fact that the good, the bad and the ugly reviews are all included in the results makes the site an accurate and unbiased source of information when you need to narrow your options.

What’s Good: Read and write reviews on restaurants, shopping, events and other sights or activities in your home town or places you have visited. Even small town hot-spots have somehow amassed a heap of reviews – and not just those lame three word “I like it” reviews, but ones that are actually helpful.

What’s Bad: Has info on the US and just launched its UK version, but you’re screwed if you plan on venturing much beyond that.  Also, users should keep in mind that the business does get to pick which review they want to show up first – so you may want to skip over that one – with that one exception the rest of the reviews are ordered by date they were posted, along with some more complicated algorithm.

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (17 of 40)

view of old quarter over hanoi

view of old quarter over hanoi

it’s day three in hanoi and we’re still diggin it.  a city of 3 million, its got an amazing amount of character and charm, of course with the daily tourist scams, but we’d be surprised if there weren’t any.

view of lake from cafe

view of lake from cafe

on our first day we walked around ‘old quarter‘ where we’re staying to get our barrings.  first things first – coffee.  the book raves about the coffee here so we gave it a try.  the first cafe we saw was more of a club, but with a fabulous view so we said what the heck.  on the 6th floor balcony we were overlooking the lake on one side and the old quarter on the other.  and the coffee had like 6 shots of espresso, thick espresso, topped off with warm sweet milk, if you like…rip the enamel right off those pearly whites.  this ‘cafe’ was something we could never afford to go to in the states as looked like the swankiest club in vegas…but for us, a mere $5.00 for two coffees and a pineapple/carrot shake…. sure not really on our backpackers budget, but what a view…

strong coffees and shake... notice the carved carrot...

strong coffees and shake... notice the carved carrot...

the old quarter definitely has a french feel to the architecture, but the streets are everything you’d expect of a bustling asian city.  motor bikes, bicycles, and cars, zooming every which way.  horns going off everywhere!  but to tell you the truth, even a blind man could cross the road here, you just gotta keep moving (never stop!) and the traffic weaves around you like a river around a rock.

each street specializes in one thing, be it aluminum materials, silk cloth, musical instruments, chinese lanterns, flowers, plush toys, plastic toys, you name it.  it’s like one giant store and each street serves as an aisle.

the lake we’re at has been here for thousands of years, hanoi itself is something like 545 days until its 1000 year anniversary (there’s banners and billboards countin’ down).

legend has it the dynastic leader at the time, ly, was sent a sword from the gods and defeated the chinese with it, and then a giant turtle

mmm...coffee

mmm...coffee

from this lake came up and grabbed it from his hands, taking it below and returning to the gods

where it came from…. still today there really are giant turtles in the lake, but you only see them maybe once every two years, so consider yourself damn lucky if you do! we did, but embalmed on a temple island on the lake, looks more like a giant seal or something stuffed in a shell….

water puppetry is an ancient form of entertainment, originally started at the rice paddies… the puppets are made from fig trees with dye from foods.  they use a stick to move the puppets from afar, and back in the day, these experienced puppeteers would get water borne diseases. yuck.  puppeteers have at least a minimum of 3 years experience.  now, its done in theatres, clean water, and they wear waders.  we saw it, pretty cool.  check out the pics.

roof tops

roof tops

eel or snake?  in food market, of course!

eel or snake? in food market, of course!

want some bananas?

want some bananas?

what a load

what a load

flowers!

flowers!

flower bike

flower bike

old quarter street corner

old quarter street corner

ancient bridge

ancient bridge

fruit bikes

fruit bikes

house

house

jeff in street

jeff in street

oranges

oranges

jeff lookin like a natural

jeff lookin like a natural

old wall

old wall

old quarter on the lake by night

old quarter on the lake by night

turtle temple island

turtle temple island

pagoda, the symbol of hanoi

pagoda, the symbol of hanoi

tower

tower

cool old trunk

cool old trunk

bridge

bridge

water puppet parade

water puppet parade

the puppet masters

the puppet masters

Travel Tools – Lonely Planet Review

Named after the Joe Cocker song “Space Captain,” (the founders Maureen and Tony Wheeler thought he sang “lonely planet” – it’s really “lovely planet) Lonely Planet is perhaps the leading online travel research, tips, advice and informational site.  These guys got their start penning travel guidebooks for backpackers and other low-budget travel efficianados.  In addition to thier Web presence, which was revamped in 2008, Lonely Planet’s repotior also includes hardcover photography books, food guides, city-specific guides, travelogues, and language guides, just to name a few.

What once started as a travel resource has morphed into a kindof travel phenomenon, even resulting in the creation of the tongue-in-cheek term Banana Pancake Trail - the monkier given to the well-worn path that backpackers (who, many say, found out about these places thanks to Lonely Planet) take throughout South East Asia.  This constant influx of adventurers has inspired bed and breakfasts, tour and event guides and restraunts to be founded in order to accomodate them.  Many guesthouses and cafes now serve banana pancakes – a tasty treat reminiscint of home.

What’s Good: Find world guides, travel forums, links to travel services, traveler photographs, community blogs, travel-related applications etc. on one user-friendly (and visually exciting) site. Planning a trip of just curious about an area? Zero in on your vacation destination using Lonely Planet’s regional search tool and get in depth information including maps, “top city” picks, travel alerts and more..

What’s Bad: Too much of a good thing? As asthetically pleasing as the site is, it’s easy to get lost in the site, unable to get back to that tasty tidbit you meant to jot down or research further. And while there is ton of information on the commonly vacationed-to destinations, the site is lacking information on the more offbeat areas.

The Philosophy of Travel

Anyone who has done it will tell you that traveling, when done right, is sort of like a religious experience…or like a drug.  Once you get the itch it can be impossible to fully scratch – sure, it may ebb now and again, but it is sure to creep back in and leave you compulsively planning how you can embark on your next adventure.  Even bad trips eventually turn into a fond memory – a new story that you can brag about to other travelers.

And like any drug worth doing, those who are hooked on traveling will find a way to make it happen.  Priorities shift, you skimp where you used to splurge, and save what you used to frivolously spend.  You begin to see each dollar as a caveat that can take you one step closer to your next destination.  And the good thing is, there are ways to travel on any budget.

In fact, some of the best experiences come from those times you are forced to get in the trenches, so to speak, and really experience and immerse yourself in the region of the world you are in.  Fancy hotels, swanky train trips, and pricey tours allow you to barley scratch the surface of a town.  Sure, you may not be used to sleeping in a hammock rather than a bed, but to some, that is their everyday life.  And if you approach your travels with no expectations, you may gain a new perspective by which to measure your own life and your own happiness.  Simply put – travel changes you.

Over the years, travel has meant different things to different people.  Everyone has a different travel philosophy – and for most, it will contintue to change for as long as they continue to travel…gathering new colors with which to paint their own canvas.

Here is a collection of thoughts on the subject:

“Not all those who wander are lost.”  -  J. R. R. Tolkien

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quiestest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”  -  Pat Conroy

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”  - Lao Tzu

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”  -  Miriam Beard

“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.”  -  Samuel Johnson

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  -  Mark Twain

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” –  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”  –  Maya Angelou

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” -  Paul Theroux

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”  -  Jack Kerouac

“The traveler sees what he sees.  The tourist sees what he has come to see.” –  G.K. Chesterton

“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.”  -  Anatole France

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”  -  Martin Buber

“Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty-his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.”  -  Aldous Huxley

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”  - Freya Stark

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”  -  James Michener

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”  -  St. Augustine

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”  -  Bill Bryson

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”  -  Cesare Pavese

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.”  -  Dagobert D. Runes

“And that’s the wonderful thing about family travel:  it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind.”  -  Dave Barry

“I met a lot of people in Europe.  I even encountered myself.” –  James Baldwin

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money.  Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” –  Susan Heller

“The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” –  Rudyard Kipling

“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.”  -  Benjamin Disraeli

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”  –  G. K. Chesterton

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”  -  Mark Twain

“I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” –  Lillian Smith

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” –  Aldous Huxley

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” –  Jawaharial Nehru

“What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” –  William Least Heat Moon

“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”  -  Mark Jenkins

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (16 of 40)

got baguette?

got baguette?

vietnam
“well we made it.  and with that said we’ve already encountered/checked off things we knew would occur… we signed up for our 24hour bus ride at $19.00 each.  nothing to write home about, but at least it wasn’t the worst.  they drove us 7 hours to the border and then we stayed there until it opened up at 6am.  once it got light out we could see we had already crossed a major weather barrier:  it was foggy and misty and cool… a nice change, but we were still in shorts and t-shirts and flops.. not really prepared.  after we got pulled around the border crossing they (like normal), were demanding more money, and then we were left in the rain to walk through ‘no mans land’ (the inbetween laos and vietnam).  but we made it back on the bus, passport in hand, soaking wet and cold (see pics).

arch of vien tien

arch of vien tien

our first stop was the classic bus owned road side restaurant where everyone gets off, chows down quickly, goes pee and even brushes their teeth (we’ve done this one many times by now).  but here we tried our first pho and co.  the first is the famous noodle soup, the second is a rice dish… both pretty good, but I know we’ll find better. on the bus there was about 6 of us ‘farungs‘ and the rest locals of vietnam.  not too much interaction occurred until the bus started to thin out in vietnam and seating arrangements were rearranged.  we finally started our interaction.  one guy knew very little english, but enough to get a convo going.  he asked us where we were from, but he couldn’t understand us.  we proceeded with age questions, travel, etc… then he asked again where we were  from so pulled out our trusty map and pointed to the states.  that’s when it came, the big long “ooooohhhhh…..” then silence for a few minutes.

laos arch

laos arch

we weren’t sure how to take it and have been wondering what it was gonna be like since neither of us experienced the war and were not that affected by it…. he then broke the silence with a smile saying how many many vietnamese were killed in the war. we nodded in agreement, curiously wondering what they were thinking.  he continued on and we figured him and jeff are the same age so they went off that for a bit, then he explained how his older brother was sent to the states in 1975 at the age of 9, and has been there ever since.  he’s now a doctor in california (area code 714 – he showed us, but we’re not sure where that is…) and he sends home $1000-3000 every christmas since, the way things worked out, he is more successful now whereas the local brother we were talking to barely scrapes up the change. his buddy then explained his father was killed in 1974 in the war, but he was only 1 year old, so he never knew him.  the whole conversation was a very interesting experience and we know we’ve got lots more to come.  but there was smiles and even laughter so we felt in good company.  i do have to say that it’s heart wrenching looking into the eyes of the elders here knowing they DID live and breath through the war and that we have no idea what that was like….

box wine...makes a bus ride smooth

box wine...makes a bus ride smooth

then, we saw it…just what we were hoping to not see – what we were thinking could just be rumors…. fido on a stick…well almost (he was on his way).  a lady on the side of the road was prepping her dead ‘fido’ (i just can’t bring myself to say it..) for the next stages in the kitchen…we continued on down the road and noticed quite a lot of dogs chained up on the side of buildings…keep in mind we’re in 3rd world countries here where dogs normally roam free and wild…so this was a dead give away…… now we have a lot more to explore, as this was all on our little bus ride.  hanoi is huge, 3 million i think.  we’re in the old quarter at a clean decent hotel – for 10 bucks, free internet, and dinner in our room….not too shabby! we got in at dark, so tomorrow we explore around… now we’ve got our box of wine from the bus to finish while chowing down on spring rolls….. peace and love always…”

walking in the rain

walking in the rain

jeff like pineapple

jeff like pineapple

yum

yum

The Heavenly Seven-Mile Long Community of Boca Grande

Boca Grande is a peaceful seven mile long community in Gasparilla Island, Southwest Florida.  This paradisiacal location is ideal for a get-away-from-it-all location as it offers a tranquilizing alternative to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Boca Grande does not have any high rises or traffic lights and the mode of transportation for most people is golf carts.  At Boca Grande, you can enjoy the pristine beaches, aquatic activities, fishing, golfing, dining, and shopping.  Luxurious beach vacation homes are very popular among tourists on this island as they capture the true essence of this serene destination!

Boca Grande is widely known for its gorgeous, white sand beaches; that is not surprising because the island has perpetually gorgeous weather averaging 75 degrees.  At the beach, you can enjoy the beautiful view, soak in the sun, people watch, talk a walk, and read.  In addition, you can indulge in more active ventures including swimming, shelling, surfing, and scuba diving.

If you stay at a beach vacation home, you can have access to the beach twenty-four seven!  Not only will you experience ultimate luxury, you will feel as if you are at home away from home.

At Boca Grande, you can also go for boating and sailing by tour or on your own.  Boating and sailing are enjoyable activities and you encounter some exotic species like dolphins, white pelicans, and ospreys.  Boca Grande is a haven for people that like to fish because Southwest Florida is globally acclaimed for its fishing.  In fact, fishing is an integral part of the culture of Gasparilla Island. The waters of Southwest Florida are replete with game and food fish.  Tarpoon in the spring is a key fishing season and between August and November, offshore fishing is excellent for grouper, snapper, and kingfish while inshore fishing is great for snook and redfish.  Nevertheless, recreational fishing is an exciting sport in Boca Grande throughout the year by means of your own boat, a rental boat, or one of the many local fishing guides.

Along with the aquatic activities and beaches, Boca Grande offers scenic beauty, great restaurants, unique shops, theatres, and art galleries.  One of the most special aspects of Boca Grande is that it seeks to protect its distinct atmosphere and its quality of life.  The art galleries have works of local artists that have admirably captured the spirit of Boca Grande.

All the restaurants in this community have a unique style and they all specialize in fresh, local seafood.  Moreover, the restaurants offer a vast variety of international cuisines with mouthwatering flavors and upscale ambiances.

Boca Grande has served as a backdrop in many movies including Denzel Washington’s Out of Time and the movie based on Carl Hiaasen’s book Hoot.

During your vacation at Boca Grande, you can also visit some of the beautiful islands that are very close to it including North Captiva, Cayo Costa, Cabbage Key, and Useppa Island - all are all beautiful, exciting and excluive.

Boca Grande is a community that is ideal for an unwinding, relaxing vacation. A trip to Boca Grande is a memorable one that will keep you coming back for more!

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (15 of 40)

bike ride

bike ride

mountain bikes…
“we decided in the morning to rent some mountain bikes and go for a ride to to numerous caves and blue lagoons that lie within the limestone mountains.

we spent the day swimming in the blue lagoon and lounging in the shade. we then completed the ride it was around 30km and took us  into different villages and across many rivers.  i must say the next day we were sore and i think that was our first bit of exercise in months.

everyone comes to this town for one thing:  tubing.  you rent a tube take a tuk tuk up the river where you are dropped off at the first bar. spring break here we come!  ’i remember back in 1989…’ oh sorry that’s another story.

blue lagoon

blue lagoon

lots of loud music ,drinking and a giant rope swing - its a great place to get lubed up and watch the daring tourists swinging out of a tree to drop 30 ft into the river. lots of good laughs watching everyone. one thing they do is write on themselves with a permanent marker [see the blog pictures for more] everyone is just having fun in the sun.

by the way we didn’t rent a tube we just swam the whole way. the tube rental is about $10 us dollars with a $5 deposit and we thought the money was better spent on alcohol. next you swim to the other bar where they greet you with shots of whiskey and a chance to ride their rope swing. so by now im feeling pretty good so i try it out. we spent the next hour jumping off the platform and riding the cable swing into the water.

next across the river to another bar and rope swing.  now both stacy and i  are ready for the rope swings. we had lots of fun and good laughs as we swung across the river into the water. i don’t have to tell you that we had a good buzz by now. so off to the next and here we have a giant concrete slide that launches you into the air and down into the river.  this is a blast but very dangerous. i think i cracked a rib or something – the next few days will tell. stacy launched herself into the river and came up with a huge smile…always good to see.

cool tree

cool tree

everyone at this point is feeling great and the party still going strong. we stuck it out till the sun was going down and grabbed a tuk tuk back to town. its funny to watch as the people come back you see some really drunk people. some don’t even know where they are or how they got here!

we ended the evening after a nap with a cool couple we met up in luang prabang.  she was from ecuador and her husband from switzerland where they now lived.  had a great time comparing countries, travel experiences, and the everyday life.  hopefully we’ll see them again down the road.

we may leave tomorrow down to vien tiane and then work our way to vietnam, we’ll see.  first another swim in the river with the local kids before the sun goes down.  if we don’t get out of town now we’ll coaxed into doing the tubing again with one of our new friends, celebrating his 30th b-day tomorrow. it’d probably be in our best interest (and safety) to get out while we can.

thanks for keeping up with us, we love reading your comments and emails!

peace and love and tubing!”

jeff & spanish friends

jeff & spanish friends

giant limestone rock

giant limestone rock

lots of cows!

lots of cows!

kids splashing

kids splashing

swimming

swimming

river crossing with our bikes

river crossing with our bikes

locals crossing

locals crossing

zipline
jeff jumpin

jeff jumpin

jeff smiling

jeff smiling

sunset

sunset

Dana Point – Harboring the Good Life!

Dana Point is a beautiful city located in southern Orange County, California.  The motto of the city is “Harboring the Good Life,” which is manifested in the life of residents of the city.

This city is a popular vacation destination because of its serene natural beauty, gorgeous beaches, shopping, beautiful parks, and host of activities that it has to offer.  A prominent point of interest in the city is Dana Point Harbor which offers boat rentals, fishing, windsurfing, jet-skiing, boat charters, shops, and restaurants.  Vacationers thoroughly enjoy the lively atmosphere and activities at the Harbor.

Dana Point has 23 beautiful parks, including Chloe Luke Overlook, Creekside Park, Crystal Cove Park, and Salt Creek Park.  The renowned parks are free of charge for visitors and are perfect for picnics, barbeques, relaxing, walking, biking, and playing sports.  You can reserve the parks for large parties and you can also have a memorable wedding at one of the parks.

Dana Point has world-famous beaches and a number of beach-related activities and facilities, such as boat rentals and surf shops.  Some of the beaches include Capistrano Beach, Doheny State Beach, and Salt Creek Beach.

Capistrano Beach is a beautiful beach that offers sports, cycling, fishing gear and beach supplies.

Doheny State Beach has an impressive picnic area and is famous in the state of California for its swimming and surfing.

Salt Creek Beach is also popular for surfing and is located in Salt Creek Park.

Dana Point is referred to as the “Whale Capital of the West” because a variety of whales use the city as a navigational landmark on their migrations. Thus, whale-watching is a popular activity that proves to be a majestic experience particularly in the months of January and February.  Moreover, Dana Point is a well-known fishing area and Dana Point Harbor offers fishing trips for everyone.

The Ocean Institute is a valuable resource that provides an authentic ocean experience by means of children’s day camps, boat excursions, and wildlife cruises.

Dana Point has a prominent shopping culture; the city offers shops that sell a broad range of items including Indian artifacts, custom-designed jewelry, designer sunglasses, well-known art galleries, and high-end clothing.  The city has something exciting for every shopper.

Dana Point Harbor also has seventeen, well-known and diverse restaurants to choose from.

Dana Point has annual events every season including boat rides with Santa Claus, Festival of the Whales, Doheny Blues Festival which is a vibrant event that celebrates the coming of the summer, Fourth of July fireworks, and Shakespeare by the Sea which is a free Shakespeare production.

Dana Point also has a great location as it is close to a number of attractions.  Disneyland and other theme parks are about forty-five minutes away and the gorgeous Newport Beach is nearby as well.  San Diego is an hour away and Hollywood is about an hour and a half away.

Dana Point is a magnificent city that promises a memorable vacation for everyone!

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (14 of 40)

crossing the river in protest of the toll bridge

crossing the river in protest of the toll bridge

party on the river…
“blazing through the towering limestone mountains of laos to the river town of vang vieng we arrive in our mini bus.

so we’ve been taking lots of minibuses and each time you think your going to be riding in the brand new one sitting at the bus station, but when the time comes they always bring the old van around from the back. well, our luck has changed and we finally had the pleasure our of riding in a new minivan with a great ac and plenty of power.  since the car was so new our driver was a litttle timid and liked to brake when diving up hill.  oh well, the ac worked great.

our bungalows, jeff and his beer

our bungalows, jeff and his beer

the landscape is beautiful here in laos.  we loved thailand but here it’s all blue skies and greenery with the classic limestone giants towering in the air.

we found a nice bungalow across the river down towards the end of town.  when we arrived at the bridge to cross, they wanted 4000kp to cross, so we decided just to walk across the water instead.  having to wade across the river each time you want to go home makes for a great adventure – plus you can go for a swim and cool off!

our first night we joined our travel friends for a great meal on the streets.  we tried the fried morning glory and fired noodles with chicken and chased it down with a large beer lao. then we went to the bucket bar for a bucket of wiskey.  in asia it seems to be your best value but the hangover is very bad.  even worse was the dj who was playing at the club.  so we sat and watch 3 boys that look like girls dance and grind on the pole – not a pretty sight.  it seemd to work because every 10 minutes or so you would see a guy walk up and go for a hug, then jump back 5 feet and run away while his buddies would laugh.

more about our mountain bike excursion next time…”

sunrise

sunrise

Unwind at Redington Shores!

Redington Shores is a beautiful beach town in Pinellas County, Florida.  It is a lovely town that promises a soothing and enjoyable vacation experience.

You can unwind by soaking in the natural beauty, relaxing at the wide sandy beaches, and going to the pleasant parks.  The more active people can enjoy fishing, boating, water-sports, golfing, shopping, and the arts and culture.  There is something for everyone in Redington Shores!

Redington Shores has beautiful, white sand beaches along the Boca Ciega Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.  The beaches have spectacular sunrises and sunsets—you can watch the first ray of light from the Tampa Bay and sun set in the Gulf of Mexico.

Redington Shores is a lively beach that has concession stands, a fishing pier, and showers.  Incidentally, Redington Long Pier is the ideal place for fishing.  Various fishing charters are available catered to any fishing enthusiast.  Charters can offer short fishing trips in Tampa Bay while others offer hour-long or day-long trips in the Gulf of Mexico.  You are bound to have an enjoyable and successful fishing trip in these waters!

Dinner cruises or gambling cruises are very popular in Redington Shores.  You can go on an elegant dinner cruise and view breathtaking scenery and the beautiful sunset.  It is no surprise that sunset cruise boat weddings are exceedingly common in this area.  Redington Shores is a perfect golf destination primarily because of the pleasant weather year round.  There are a variety of beautiful golf courses that golfers can enjoy.

There is a wide selection of things to do in and around Redington Shores.  Unique and enthralling theme parks are very prevalent close to Redington Shores.  You can go to Busch Gardens, one of the largest zoological parks in the nation, that has rides and an African theme.  The Sea World of Florida features 20 shows and exhibits of whales, dolphins, and sharks, and it is also the world’s most popular marine park.

Tampa Bay has educational museums that are worth checking out.  The Great Explorations is a hands-on children’s museum and learning center.  The Museum of Science and Industry is the Southeast’s largest science center that features Florida’s only IMAX Dome Theater, traveling shows and demonstrations.

Redington Shores has a variety of restaurants that have outstanding seafood items.  You can also relax and meet locals at the bars and pubs of this beautiful town.

Redington Shores is a wonderful town where you can enjoy the stunning surroundings for an unforgettable vacation experience!

Guest Blog – Jeff & Stacy do SE Asia (13 of 40)

monks playing football

monks playing football

back on the tuk tuk …
“to the public bus stop.

well we made it to our furthest northern town of chaing sien. this little town sits on the mekong river near the famous golden triangle.

we found a great little guest house that sits just outside the old city walls. thinking that we could walk there we turned down the tuk tuk driver (fare was a doller) and made our way down the street strolling along the mekong river. temperature was in the 90′s, our packs weigh a good amount, yet we were determined to walk, because as a backpacker that’s what you do to save a dollar.

after we settled in we walked back to town for a meal at the local street vender. i had chinese chicken rice which was prepared over a bed of japanese mesquite fire, then was flashed in a dry red curry powder and sprinkled with fresh corriander. stacy had the red pork on baby greens. her dish was prepared from 2 month aged pork that had been smoked with candy apples, figs and a hint of honey. amazing!

luang prabang tuk tuk

luang prabang tuk tuk

the next day we rented a motorbike and head to the golden triangle where you can see burma, laos, and thailand all meet on the mekong. they burn all the under brush in this part of the world so its hard to see much of anything in the distance, but we were able to appreciate the beauty.

after that, we set out to see the wats (or temples) that sit on the hillsides of chaing sien. very impressive with buhhda and all his monks chillin in their orange robes.  we then tried to catch the sunset at a nearby lake that captures  the beauty of the lotus flowers and the orchestra of the numerous wild birds. we ended our day with a great meal on the river. street venders throw down bamboo mats and tables and serve you a great meal with beers and local wiskey.

the next day we were on our way to laos on a 2 day slow boat down the mekong river. the border on the laos side was a little unorganized. after we filled out the forms we stood in a line (or what looks like a line) to wait and wait to give our passport and 35 american dollars to the officials.
grand palace now museum

grand palace now museum

after that, the boat company gets all the travelers together for a speech on the laos boat trip. first they tell us that on the first day we will be on the boat for 12 hours and that our lives are at risk.

we spend the night at a river town and again the boat guy tells us that we might have our luggage stolen off the boat by villagers, that there is also no electricity, very few rooms available and, to top it all off, we could DIE.

at that point i had to leave to get a beer because everywhere we went there is a scam and we have heard it many times. this whole speech is being given so they can talk people into taking the bus for an additional 300 baht.

overall, the boat trip was a great time with travelers from all over the world. they had a bar with food, the seats were wood benches that suck after about 30 min, but lucky for us the first day was only 7 hours long.

peace

peace

we arrived to a great little village with friendly locals and plenty of places to stay. a bit more expensive but nice. we ate at a great indian/laos resturant to fuel up for our second day.

second day was great with lots of time to take in the beauty of the river and chat with the other travelers – this trip took about 10hrs. now we are in luang prabang checkin it out. seems to be more french influence here with fresh baguettes and wine stores along the narrow streets.

we’re leaving in a day to vang vieng to see more and keep the adventure exciting and new….”

Manzanillo – Que Bonita!

Manzanillo, Mexico is a wonderful destination located in the state of Colima. It is a coastal city on the Pacific side with the busiest port in Mexico. However, despite its commercial importance, it has retained its tranquil laid-back Mexican charm.

The port of Manzanillo is made up of two separate bays, divided by the Peninsula of Santiago. On the left is the Bay of Santiago, followed by a smaller notched-out area, known as Playa Audiencia and on the right-hand side, is the Bay of Manzanillo. Both bays are more than five miles long and offer a variety of water sports activities.

Manzanillo is replete with pristine, breathtaking beaches that are undeniably the most beautiful on the western coast of Mexico. Manzanillo is a perfect vacation spot for people that want to get-away-from-it-all and immerse themselves in the best of Mexican beauty and natural charms.  The best way to experience the local way of life is to rent a beach house!

In the north side of Manzanillo, the tourist zone offers exclusive gift shops, cultural stores, travel agencies, tour operators, authentic restaurants and beautiful beaches including Playa de Oro, Playa L’Recif, and La Boquita. In addition, the renowned seafood in Manzanillo is scrumptious and fresh due to the vast fishing culture of the city. Start out your delicious seafood lunch with a shrimp cocktail or fresh oysters and clams caught that morning by the local fishermen. You can also choose from a varied menu of seafood for the main course, such as shrimp, filet of dorado, red snapper, or lobster. While enjoying the delicious food in the vibrant town of Manzanillo, you can have the strolling musicians play you a few Mariachi tunes.

There is a vast variety of activities for vacationers that include playing water sports, fishing, golfing, and enjoying the nightlife. Surfing, scuba diving, swimming, banana boat rides, and snorkeling are very popular in this town and Manzanillo also has two of the top golf courses in Mexico. The city is known as the “sailfish capital of the world” with year-round excursions available for sport fishing.

Tours are available of the city and of the historic state of Colima. It’s a great place to shop too—there are stores ranging from upscale to local vendors that you can bargain with for hammocks, toys and authentic jewelry.

Manzanillo is a cultural, relaxing and enjoyable place to visit for vacationers. It is undeniably a must-see for vacationers planning a trip to Mexico.